Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie is earning rave early reviews and looks set to be one of the year's biggest movies, but what of the video game? Due out on just about every format going, the Traveller's Tales developed action title is expected to do big business. Activision stopped by to demo the Xbox 360 version and it looks like fans of the movie aren't going to be disappointed.
Being a movie licensed title the game follows the story of the film, but also adds plenty of new content to flesh out the story. Each level is based in a free-roaming area, with the players free to go where they like, but an entire free-roaming world simply wasn't possible due to the worldwide spread of locations in which the film is set. Although I was only able to play an early level with Bumblebee, set in a typical US town, later levels vary substantially.
Transformers is all about the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and the game allows you to see the battle from both sides. You're able to choose which side to play as from the start, with each mission playable as the good or bad guys. As you move through the game any completed mission can be tackled from the alternate point of view, and there's plenty of unlockable content to reward completists.
Action takes place from a third-person perspective, with you in control of one of the Transformers from the movie. Both close quarters and gun combat can be used to dispatch the various enemies you'll encounter - made up of key characters and newly designed robots that aren't in the movie. Melee combat seems simple, but effective, while weapons allow you to fight from a distance.
The other major factor is the environment and the objects in it. Being a giant robot, large objects are like toys, so you can pick up almost anything. Certain characters will need to be dazzled before you can go in for the kill, so using objects as weapons comes in very handy. Of course, while you could pick up a bus full of people and hurl it at a Decepticon, doing so wouldn't be in character for a good, peace seeking Autobot.
This is where the game's moral system comes into effect. Instead of hampering your game for what can often be unintentional damage to the world (it's pretty easy to cause mass destruction when you're a giant robot and the entire world can be destroyed), any actions that aren't in keeping with the spirit of your character will slash the unlock points you've accrued. With plenty of unlockables that are said to please old-school Transformers fans, there's a good chance you'll want to play nicely - or not if you're a Decepticon.
My time with the game ended with a fight with Barricade, one of the Decepticons from the movie. Being Transformers, these robots aren't restricted to on-foot form, and neither are you. This lengthy battle requires you to switch between humanoid and vehicle form, as you chase the Decepticon around the city, eventually ending up in a power plant. The transformation between forms is quick and looks great, although car handling is currently a little loose for my liking. Hopefully this will be tidied up before release in July.
Being a movie licensed video game we can't really expect visuals to rival the likes of Gears of War, but Traveller's Tales have done a decent job of bringing the movie to our consoles. The robots themselves are the stars, with each model coming directly from ILM (the company behind the CGI in the movie). For in-game models they're incredibly detailed and, while not quite as impressive, the environments look great too. The fact that every man-made object can be destroyed means that combat can often be hugely satisfying, with stuff blowing up all over the place.
As long as you're not expecting Transformers: The Game to be a Game of the Year contender, Activision's latest movie licensed video game shouldn't disappoint on its arrival in July. With a little bit of polish here and there it could end up being the best move tie-in of the summer, which is about the best we can ask for. Look for a review towards the end of July.